How to prepare yourself for totality with videos, books and articles
Nothing will truly prepare you for your first experience of totality.
The dropping temperatures, the darkening skies, the rippling shadows. Your first sight of an eclipsed Sun. It’s an assault on the senses and likely to elicit an almost primaeval reaction. Even if the total solar eclipse on Saturday, December 4, 2021, won’t be your first, the location – in the Weddell Sea off the coast of mainland Antarctica – will make it a unique event.
So it’s not something you can easily read-up about in advance and prepare yourself for.
Nor is a total solar eclipse something you need to know about in advance. Come as a rookie with no knowledge or experience of eclipse-chasing and you’ll be in good company.
Sure, a total solar eclipse is an astronomical event and it’s perfectly possible to approach it from a scientific point of view. But it’s just as valid to think of totality as a wondrous spectacle of nature. You can allow it to astound you without any specialist knowledge of what you’re seeing.
However, if you do want to at least get a bigger idea of what you’re about to witness there are plenty of excellent videos, books and articles available. Here’s what we recommend:
The best videos about solar eclipses
These videos will make the hairs on the back of your next stand up. If you’ve experienced an eclipse before, they will make you smile. Or cry. None of them truly represent anything more than 1% of the power of witnessing totality for yourself, but they do portray some of the excitement that always accompanies a total solar eclipse:
1. “I have corona!”
Canadian eclipse-chaser and filmmaker David Makepeace’s video of a total solar eclipse in Patagonia close to the horizon on 11 July, 2010. It’s something akin to what we may see on December 4, 2021.
2. “Oh my god!”
Probably the most famous video ever of an eclipse as my friend Mike Kentrianakis watches totality through a window on Alaska Airlines Solar Eclipse Flight #870 on 8 March, 2016. https://youtu.be/YBoa81xEvNA
3. “What is happening?! This is insane!”
This amateur video of the ‘Great American Eclipse’ or August 21, 2017, will give you a nice general idea of the many unexpected sights and feelings of witnessing a total solar eclipse for the first time.
The best books about solar eclipses
Once a niche interest of astronomers, eclipse-chasing has become much more popular in the wake of 2017’s ‘Great American Eclipse’. That’s meant a lot of books on solar eclipses, my favourites including:
● Atlas of Solar Eclipses – 2020 to 2045 by Michael Zeiler.
● Eclipse – Journeys to the Dark Side of the Moon by Frank Close.
● Sun Moon Earth by Tyler Nordgren.
The best writing about solar eclipses
Putting into words the experience of totality is like dancing about architecture, but that doesn’t stop journalists and poets from giving it a go. Here are my favourites from recent total solar eclipses:
● On Not Totally Seeing a Total Solar Eclipse by British poet Lavinia Greenlaw in The New Yorker.
● ‘The humans cheered and the birds began to panic’ – what it’s like to watch a solar eclipse by Greg Dickinson in The Telegraph (featuring me!).
● A drone, a $12,000 lens, and the magic of a total solar eclipse by Eric Adams in Wired magazine.
● It was real, and it was spectacular. Tuesday’s solar eclipse illuminated the joys of life by Matthew Cappucci in The Washington Post.
● Thanks for the ear worm, Bonnie on the Wandering Wainwrights blog.